Jenny Baldwin, Head of Marketing at Derby Grammar School, outlines some of the most common questions she encounters at an Open Day from families considering an independent education.
If you’re considering an independent school for your child, you’ll want to take a close look at your options. It’s important to visit different schools and talk with school representatives, such as teachers, current parents and the pupils themselves.
You will find differences between schools, sometimes ones that you weren’t expecting. Ask as many questions as you can to find out as much as you can, but you will always come away with a gut-feeling about a school.
At Derby Grammar School the most common thing we hear from our parents and from Open Day visitors is that ‘it just feels right’.
Here are some of the most common questions we encounter at Open Days:
1. What are your class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios?
Class size can really affect the quality of education. A major perk of many independent schools is their smaller class size and lower student-to-teacher ratio. This can often lead to more personalised attention, differentiated instruction, and pupil engagement.
2. How much is tuition and what does it include?
Independent schools vary widely in price. Make sure you are aware of all costs and what is and isn’t included in the termly fee.
At Derby Grammar School our fees include tuition and a hot two course lunch every day, as well as additional items depending on the year group of your child. There are other costs such as co-curricular activities and field trips which aren’t covered in the fee, but we have made this as transparent as possible on our website at www.derbygrammar.org/fees
3. Are there trips and activities to develop and widen their interest and knowledge outside the classroom curriculum?
Many independent schools offer a wide range of co-curricular activities. This may include sports teams, after-school and lunch clubs and national or international trips.
Ideally, a school will offer co-curricular activities that meet your child’s interests and needs. For example, at Derby Grammar School our Formula 24 Greenpower racing club is hugely popular with our pupils who are interested in design, engineering and electronics, and our music department runs a wide range of bands, ensembles and choirs so everyone has an opportunity to indulge their musical flair.
It’s important to understand what the co-curricular offer at a school is, how often the activities take place, and if there are any additional costs to take part in them.
4. What is student life like?
Student life is an important part of education. You want your child to be happy, productive, and engaged at school. And you want them to develop and maintain strong friendships and peer relationships.
Find out as much as you can about student life. Look into what school is like for them —socially, emotionally, and intellectually. For example, are there community-building events and activities? How do they cultivate strong peer relationships?
At Derby Grammar School our small size promotes a close and supportive environment which is enhanced through our pastoral system and House activities. The relationships developed at school last well beyond school. Regular updates from our Old Derbeians are testament to this.
5. How can parents get involved in school life?
Parents play a huge role in their children’s education. Many get involved in their children’s school life by regular volunteering in class or occasionally serving on parent committees.
At Derby Grammar School both the School and PTA host regular events which our parents get involved in, from the Summer Ball to Jazz Night and Fireworks Night. With a thriving programme of sports matches across all year groups, watching a match from the sidelines is a great way for parents to meet one another, teachers and support the school.
We welcome parents in to school. For example, in Primary School, our parents often help with day to day activities or on trips, and in Senior School our parents give careers talks.
6. What are your academic results like and where do your pupils go on to?
The academic results of a school are important and by looking at the GCSE and A Level results for the most recent year, and earlier years, you’ll get a good idea of how the school has fared.
It’s also important to look at where the A Level students go on to. Do they go on to university or secure apprenticeships, what is the careers and higher education support like? If your child already has an idea of the career they want to enter, then look at the results specifically around this.
What Derby Grammar School has to offer
No two schools are the same and you will get a different feel at each school you visit. You will find the best one to suit the character and strengths of your child so that they can make the most of their time at school and so that they can flourish and excel.
Ask questions, go to an Open Day, ensure your child has a Taster Day, meet the Head: find out as much as you can so that you can make the best possible choice for your child.